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Post details: Darwinian Cookbook

Darwinian Cookbook

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then taste must be on the tongue of the gourmet.

If you take a close look at the culinary business, you will realize we are all victims of the dogma of totalitarian cuisines. Whether you like French or Thai, there is always someone else at the driving wheel of the synthetic process. But why should we leave it to the chefs to decide what combination of flavors and spices best tickles our taste buds? After all, our appetite sensors are different from theirs.

Our cutting boards need a revolution. Away with the dictatorship of cookbooks! Let's take hints from the evolution. After emerging from the primordial soup, life went through myriad random mutations. Not all of them were equally viable, of course, but those that made sense prevailed. I would like to suggest adopting the same paradigm in the kitchen.

Imagine the thrill of being in the driver's seat of the culinary evolution. Why stumble through the carefully measured spoonfuls and half cups of the gustatory dogma when you can freely experiment and let your own senses decide how to prune the evolutionary tree of your kitchen creations. Not to mention the blast of trailblazing itself, never knowing whether mixing two exotic cheeses would result in an explosion, in a new dairy based life-form or just in a really really bad tasting pizza.

The basic idea of the Darwinian cooking is this: toss a few random ingredients together, taste judiciously and keep only the combos that you like. Pretty simple, isn't it? To give you a feel how Darwinian cooking works in practice, here are three examples. Just remember that I am the anticook, so don't take them too literally. It is the principle that counts.

1. Darwinian Spread. For this one you will need a grater with some serious stamina. The base for the spread are sardines - I usually use Norwegian sardines in olive oil - but in the spirit of free love, feel free to use any oceanic critters. The recipe is trivial. First, empty a couple of cans of sardines into a mixing bowl and mash them into a paste like substance. Then assemble things you would like to eat and grate away. The list of my favorite gratees includes pickles, small cucumbers, carrots, onions and Jarlsberg cheese. The most important ingredient though is a raw potato. You may find it strange - but it gives the spread very unusual filamental texture. You can skip on any of the above ingredients, but not on the potato. Happy spreading!

2. Darwinian Soup. For the base of this soup I use Ramen noodles as they are cheap and come with a variety of attendant spice packets already. The rest is pretty much up for grabs, but the magical ingredient here is leeks. I usually put in some shiitake mushrooms first, and after they start boiling, I add the minced leeks, and at the end the noodles. I usually put them in after I turn the stove off, because then the noodles stay relatively crisp. When the soup cools off, I sprinkle some parsley flakes over it.

3. Darwinian Stir-fry. This is my favorite Darwinian dish - which I also call Refrigerator Medley, although it could be just as easily dubbed Chop'n'Fry. You can literally open the fridge, chop whatever random articles capture your fancy and fry them to perfection. But over the time I learned that the Medley is best rendered in the following progression. First, slice lean beef meat into thin noodles and fry them until you think they will be reasonably safe to eat. Then slice a potato into equally thin noodles, lower the heat a bit and throw them into the mix. The rest is kind of heat optional. It is mostly veggies - and those I like as crunchy as possible, whether it is peppers, water chestnuts, carrots, onions or sweet peas. So kick that refrigerator door open and treat yourself to a chopping spree. Mix well with the hot stuff in the frying pan. You can also spice it up with freshly milled Provence Herbs, especially if you are a francophone.

Finally, I would like to mention that any of the three recipes above can be greatly enhanced by adding a dash of Chiu Chow Chily Oil, which you can get at any Asian Food Market. But that of course is strictly optional - this is Darwinian cooking we are talking about, and if you'd rather smother everything in Kikkoman sauce, be my guest.

Remember that your taste buds are unique; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.


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